Garbage smells, compost doesn’t

Note: A shorter, slightly different, version of this appeared in the Arlington Advocate.

Concerns about smelly compost usually come from people who, understandably, don’t understand the difference between a compost pile and a pile of garbage.

So what are the differences between a pile of compost and a pile of putrid, foul-smelling, slimy ick? Carbon and air. Continue reading

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Starting a compost in winter

Started in the coldest weather, it took three weeks for this pile to heat up.

Started in the coldest weather, it took three weeks for this pile to heat up.

This has been a very cold, very snowy (snowiest on record, more falling as I type this, on March 28, 2015) winter. Even in these toughest conditions you can successfully start a compost and get it cooking.

I took this photo March 23, about one month after starting a new compost pile. Despite outdoor temperatures reaching above freezing only a few times, the pile was up over 100*. A week later the compost temperatures have been hovering between 110-120.

Continue reading

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Winter Composting do’s, don’ts and what if it doesn’t?

Thermometer is frosty, but inside the bin it is a cozy 140 F.

Thermometer is frosty, but inside the bin it is a cozy 140 F.

Winter composting always seems to confuse people, which is understandable.

So what is the secret to successful winter composting: Do the same things you do when composting the rest of the year, only faster. Continue reading

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Preparing for the Great Melt

If you live in Greater Boston*, you need to do this – now.

Do this now, even if you’ve never had a flood before, because we’ve never had snow like this before.

Do this now, even if you believe that the snow won’t melt for weeks to come, because until this year, we’ve never had snow like this arrive at this time before. (And who knows what will take up your time before then.) Continue reading

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Got ice dams?

 

Fill stockings with rock salt - any stockings will do.

Fill stockings with rock salt – any stockings will do. (Photo courtesy of Roma Costume, via Creative Commons, all rights reserved.)

A very brief and unadorned post about ice dams, which lots of people are contacting me about.

This is a very brief primer on what you need to do now, even if the roofer gets all the ice off. After you’ve taken care of the ice dams, be sure to read how to save money by keeping them away. Continue reading

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Recycling pumpkin recycling

Pumpkin recycling station 2-top onlyI’ve addressed pumpkin recycling in the past, but it is worth revisiting and updating with a new flyer you can use, below.

The idea is this: In most municipalities, you’re not supposed to put pumpkins in the yard waste, so it goes in the garbage which we (taxpayers) pay to dispose of by weight. Continue reading

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Compost: Stuff you need to start composting

It is the most basic of questions: What ‘stuff’ do I need to if I’m going to start composting?

Not surprisingly, the answers are simple and inexpensive. You can compost with a gold-plated compost unit or some pallets tied together, and you can always change things around later.

Here are some basics that I recommend: Continue reading

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“Can I compost it?” flowchart

I have no intent of replicating the many, many lists available online telling you what is compostable. (Though it is usually the most popular question people ask me.)

Instead, below is a handy flowchart (.pdf version here) you can hang on the refrigerator for those who keep asking you, “Can I compost this?”

Handy-dandy compost flowchart

Handy-dandy compost flowchart

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Wicked light, wicked strong, compost sifter

Compost screens, finished and unfinished.

Compost screens, finished and unfinished.

I’ve taught a few classes and done some exhibits about compost recently and have had a great time answering questions.

Several people have asked about the sifter/screen I use. I always point out that you don’t really need a screen, or that in a pinch a milk crate will do the job, but if you want a screen to give you a finer product, then this is a great, sturdy, lightweight unit.

Most people with just a few tools can build this compost screen which is designed to be light enough that people with limited upper-body strength can use it. The arms rest across most wheelbarrows and it is sturdy enough to handle sifting compost or getting rocks out of soil. Continue reading

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Raccoons and Compost: A Common Sense Primer

Raccoon digging for worms in my garden.

Raccoons live among us. They lived here before we composted. They lived here before we put out cat food, garbage cans, or bird feeders.

 If everybody stopped composting tomorrow, raccoons would still thrive here.

Continue reading

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